Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jeffrey Goldberg

Why Netanyahu Won’t “Go Big”

It turns out the Middle East peace process isn’t quite dead yet. According to the State Department, the “gaps are narrowing” in the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that are still taking place despite the fact that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas formally scuttled the negotiations last week by restarting his futile efforts to gain recognition for Palestinian statehood via the United Nations. Combined with a statement made by Abbas to an Arabic newspaper that he would be willing to keep talking after the expiration of the April deadline provided they were conducted according to his dictates, Secretary of State John Kerry’s brave talk about his initiative still having a chance of success looks a little less silly today.

Nevertheless, given that the Palestinians haven’t really budged an inch on any substantive issue since the talks re-started last year and that Kerry blamed Israel for what happened last week in a statement as bizarre (“poof”) as it was mendacious, it’s hard to see why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be inclined to play along with this farce any longer. Having already demonstrated that they are only interested in forcing Israel to pay for their presence at the table with concessions like the release of terrorist murderers or building freezes in the West Bank or even Jerusalem, it’s clear that Israel has little to gain from more such negotiations. But if the Palestinians do keep talking after April, there’s no doubt that the Israelis will be there too, even if it means bribing Abbas by freeing more murderers. The reason for this will not be because Netanyahu is weak or that the process has an actual chance of success. It will be due to the fact that the prime minister understands that Israel must never walk away from negotiations no matter how futile they are. Moreover, the futility of these efforts is precisely why he knows that his government must not, despite Kerry’s smears, be the one that breaks up the party.

Some Israeli right-wingers fear that Netanyahu will soon break under American pressure and embrace territorial withdrawals while perhaps not even getting a symbolic promise that this means the end of the conflict from Abbas. They’re not the only ones. Faithful Obama administration cheerleader Jeffrey Goldberg writes today in his latest column that the only reason Kerry is persisting in his efforts is because he thinks Netanyahu will do just that and, like Ariel Sharon before him, blow up his Likud Party and transform Israeli politics to get peace. But the problem with this scenario is the one point that even Goldberg concedes is the weak point in Kerry’s efforts: Abbas. The Palestinian has no intention of signing a peace deal under any circumstances.

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It turns out the Middle East peace process isn’t quite dead yet. According to the State Department, the “gaps are narrowing” in the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that are still taking place despite the fact that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas formally scuttled the negotiations last week by restarting his futile efforts to gain recognition for Palestinian statehood via the United Nations. Combined with a statement made by Abbas to an Arabic newspaper that he would be willing to keep talking after the expiration of the April deadline provided they were conducted according to his dictates, Secretary of State John Kerry’s brave talk about his initiative still having a chance of success looks a little less silly today.

Nevertheless, given that the Palestinians haven’t really budged an inch on any substantive issue since the talks re-started last year and that Kerry blamed Israel for what happened last week in a statement as bizarre (“poof”) as it was mendacious, it’s hard to see why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be inclined to play along with this farce any longer. Having already demonstrated that they are only interested in forcing Israel to pay for their presence at the table with concessions like the release of terrorist murderers or building freezes in the West Bank or even Jerusalem, it’s clear that Israel has little to gain from more such negotiations. But if the Palestinians do keep talking after April, there’s no doubt that the Israelis will be there too, even if it means bribing Abbas by freeing more murderers. The reason for this will not be because Netanyahu is weak or that the process has an actual chance of success. It will be due to the fact that the prime minister understands that Israel must never walk away from negotiations no matter how futile they are. Moreover, the futility of these efforts is precisely why he knows that his government must not, despite Kerry’s smears, be the one that breaks up the party.

Some Israeli right-wingers fear that Netanyahu will soon break under American pressure and embrace territorial withdrawals while perhaps not even getting a symbolic promise that this means the end of the conflict from Abbas. They’re not the only ones. Faithful Obama administration cheerleader Jeffrey Goldberg writes today in his latest column that the only reason Kerry is persisting in his efforts is because he thinks Netanyahu will do just that and, like Ariel Sharon before him, blow up his Likud Party and transform Israeli politics to get peace. But the problem with this scenario is the one point that even Goldberg concedes is the weak point in Kerry’s efforts: Abbas. The Palestinian has no intention of signing a peace deal under any circumstances.

If Netanyahu is, despite everything, going to keep showing up every time the Americans beckon, it isn’t because he is now suddenly willing to “go big” and make peace happen. Though his offer was not quite as generous (or should we say foolhardy) as the ones authored by his predecessors Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, he has still put a two-state solution offering Abbas almost all of the West Bank for an independent state. But the notion that peace depends on the person whom Goldberg derides as “this man of inaction” to “risk his political career for a final deal” is laughable. Indeed, by writing these words, Goldberg has more or less forfeited his status as an expert on the Middle East in favor of the title of faithful court stenographer to Kerry.

Before these talks started, wiser heads than Kerry warned the secretary that with the Palestinians divided between the Fatah-run West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza, Abbas was in no position to make peace. Everything that has happened since then has only confirmed that obvious fact as Abbas has stonewalled during the talks and seized on the first available pretext to flee them.

No prisoner release or settlement freeze will entice Abbas to say the two little words—“Jewish state”—that would indicate he was willing to end rather than pause the conflict with Israel. Nor is there anything that Netanyahu can conceivably do or say that would cause this aging, petty tyrant to risk his life merely to create a Palestinian state. Even nailing himself to the cross of settlement destruction—to use the inapt metaphor that Goldberg says is preferred by Vice President Biden—won’t get Abbas to make peace, and Netanyahu knows it. Though President Obama and Kerry laud Abbas as a man of peace, his unwillingness to speak of an end of the conflict indicates that he is no more willing to compromise and accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn than Arafat was.

That leaves Netanyahu with the unpleasant task of managing a conflict that can’t be solved by peace or war. That means showing up for peace talks but having no illusions about it being a fool’s errand. In doing so he may appear to Kerry and his friend Goldberg as a mere “mayor of Israel.” Netanyahu may be a prickly customer who inspires animus in most of his American interlocutors, but he is not stupid. Destroying the Likud to impress Kerry may sound like vision to Goldberg but Netanyahu remembers what happened when Ariel Sharon tried the same thing less than a decade ago before his Gaza withdrawal fiasco. The prime minister has no intention of sacrificing himself just to give Abbas one more chance to prove he can’t or won’t make peace. Anyone, in Israel or the United States, who thinks he will is underestimating both his intelligence and his political acumen.

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Surprise: Obama Kills the Peace Process

President Obama may have thought he was being very clever ambushing Prime Minister Netanyahu with scathing comments about Israeli policies that would be published just before he arrived in the United States for a meeting at the White House and to speak at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). By slamming Netanyahu’s policies as the primary, if not the sole obstacle to peace in the Middle East, in the now infamous interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the president put the Israeli on the defensive and undermined his attempts to rally support for his positions with both AIPAC members and Congress. That should also have made it more difficult for Netanyahu to resist American pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians in order to help the negotiations sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry succeed. But the president’s move had to leave those who have actually been following the talks with the Palestinians scratching their heads.

Kerry’s current objective is to get both parties to agree to a framework for continued talks. As has been widely reported, Netanyahu has already signaled his consent to the framework even though he and his Cabinet have grave misgivings about where the talks may eventually lead. By contrast, the Palestinians have repeatedly and publicly rejected the framework. The Palestinians have angrily rejected the framework’s requirement that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which is to say they agree to end the conflict rather than merely pause it. They also reject the West Bank security guarantees included in the framework even though it also contains their basic demands about a Palestinian state whose borders will be based on the 1967 borders while leaving open the possibility of territorial swaps. In other words, the Israelis have already given Kerry what he wanted while the Palestinians have done the opposite. Yet Obama still treats Israel as the truant and lauds Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas as a trustworthy warrior for peace even though his government is a font of incitement for hatred against Jews and Israelis and he has repeatedly rejected every previous offer of statehood because he and his people remain unable or unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

By speaking in this manner about Israel, Obama has pleased the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s Jewish critics and Israel-bashers everywhere. But it will also do something else that perhaps the president never intended. He has killed any chance that Kerry’s peace talks could possibly succeed.

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President Obama may have thought he was being very clever ambushing Prime Minister Netanyahu with scathing comments about Israeli policies that would be published just before he arrived in the United States for a meeting at the White House and to speak at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). By slamming Netanyahu’s policies as the primary, if not the sole obstacle to peace in the Middle East, in the now infamous interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the president put the Israeli on the defensive and undermined his attempts to rally support for his positions with both AIPAC members and Congress. That should also have made it more difficult for Netanyahu to resist American pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians in order to help the negotiations sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry succeed. But the president’s move had to leave those who have actually been following the talks with the Palestinians scratching their heads.

Kerry’s current objective is to get both parties to agree to a framework for continued talks. As has been widely reported, Netanyahu has already signaled his consent to the framework even though he and his Cabinet have grave misgivings about where the talks may eventually lead. By contrast, the Palestinians have repeatedly and publicly rejected the framework. The Palestinians have angrily rejected the framework’s requirement that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which is to say they agree to end the conflict rather than merely pause it. They also reject the West Bank security guarantees included in the framework even though it also contains their basic demands about a Palestinian state whose borders will be based on the 1967 borders while leaving open the possibility of territorial swaps. In other words, the Israelis have already given Kerry what he wanted while the Palestinians have done the opposite. Yet Obama still treats Israel as the truant and lauds Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas as a trustworthy warrior for peace even though his government is a font of incitement for hatred against Jews and Israelis and he has repeatedly rejected every previous offer of statehood because he and his people remain unable or unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

By speaking in this manner about Israel, Obama has pleased the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s Jewish critics and Israel-bashers everywhere. But it will also do something else that perhaps the president never intended. He has killed any chance that Kerry’s peace talks could possibly succeed.

By abusing Netanyahu even though he knows the Israelis have agreed to the peace framework, Obama vented his spleen at what is obviously his least favorite foreign leader. But rather than cheering his scolding of Netanyahu those who claim to be “pro-peace and pro-Israel” ought to be gravely concerned.

Unfortunately, the audience for the Goldberg interview was wider than the membership of AIPAC or the Israeli Cabinet. The Palestinians were also listening and what they heard will constitute a far greater impediment to peace than settlements or the Israeli prime minister.

By speaking in this manner at this particular time, the president made it clear that his administration doesn’t care what the Israelis or the Palestinians actually do in the talks. He will take sides against Netanyahu and for Abbas no matter what the Israelis say or how the Palestinians continue to obstruct the process. It tells the Palestinians they need not fear American pressure either at this stage of the talks or if they ever get close to final status discussions.

 That’s a catastrophe for the peace processers because they know that the real pressure for peace on Netanyahu doesn’t come from the White House. It stems from the desire of his people for an end to the conflict. Should there ever be a credible peace offer from the Palestinians that pledges them to recognize Israel’s legitimacy and respects Israeli security and sovereignty, Netanyahu knows that no government could turn it down.

But in contrast to the Israelis, there is no Palestinian peace camp or faction within either Abbas’ Fatah or his Hamas rivals that will push for peace even if it doesn’t grant their maximal demands. The only possible source of pressure on Abbas to do make peace must come from the U.S., Europe and the Arab States. But if President Obama is not willing to hold Abbas accountable for his behavior, then no one will. In the absence of an American determination to hold Abbas’ feet to the fire in spite of the enormous Palestinian constituency that will always oppose even the most generous Israeli offer, the already slim prospects for peace are altogether extinguished.

By attacking Netanyahu and lauding Abbas, the president has accomplished something that no Israeli right-winger could possibly accomplish: kill the peace process. Without American insisting that Abbas change his ways, there is no possible way for him to withstand the far greater pressure he gets from the descendants of the 1948 refugees — who still dream of flooding Israel and turning it into another Arab state — or his Islamist rivals.

Though the president warned Netanyahu that he wouldn’t be able to protect Israel if peace talks falter, his interview with Goldberg guaranteed that this is exactly what will happen. From here on in, everything else he says about the topic is moot.

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Iran Sanctions Foes’ Dishonest Arguments

It’s been a bad week for those trying to stop the Senate from passing tougher sanctions on Iran. After two months of dithering the Obama administration finalized the nuclear deal signed with Iran in November. That should have helped the president to orchestrate greater opposition to the push for more sanctions he opposes. But instead, the Iranians used the completion of the interim deal to celebrate what they say is a great victory over the West for the regime that confirms their right to continue enriching uranium and pursuing their nuclear goal regardless of what any agreement says. That gave the lie to the administration’s claims that the negotiations are succeeding in heading off the nuclear threat. It also strengthened arguments by sanctions proponents that putting more such restrictions in place to be implemented should the talks fail was both prudent and the best way to ensure that diplomacy has a chance to succeed.

But rather respond to Iran’s provocations, both the administration and its allies in Congress and the media have doubled down on their illogical claim that passing more sanctions now is tantamount to a declaration of war on Iran. While it is discouraging to hear this canard voiced by White House functionaries, it is even worse to hear it from those who claim to share the goal of preventing Tehran from getting a bomb. That’s essentially the position that Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg has taken in his latest column. While it is disappointing to see a man considered one of the most astute observers of the Middle East taking such a blatantly disingenuous position on an issue on which he had previously staked out a strong position, it looks as if in this case his attachment to President Obama and his loathing for the administration’s critics outweighs common sense and his ability to offer a clear-eyed evaluation of the situation.

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It’s been a bad week for those trying to stop the Senate from passing tougher sanctions on Iran. After two months of dithering the Obama administration finalized the nuclear deal signed with Iran in November. That should have helped the president to orchestrate greater opposition to the push for more sanctions he opposes. But instead, the Iranians used the completion of the interim deal to celebrate what they say is a great victory over the West for the regime that confirms their right to continue enriching uranium and pursuing their nuclear goal regardless of what any agreement says. That gave the lie to the administration’s claims that the negotiations are succeeding in heading off the nuclear threat. It also strengthened arguments by sanctions proponents that putting more such restrictions in place to be implemented should the talks fail was both prudent and the best way to ensure that diplomacy has a chance to succeed.

But rather respond to Iran’s provocations, both the administration and its allies in Congress and the media have doubled down on their illogical claim that passing more sanctions now is tantamount to a declaration of war on Iran. While it is discouraging to hear this canard voiced by White House functionaries, it is even worse to hear it from those who claim to share the goal of preventing Tehran from getting a bomb. That’s essentially the position that Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg has taken in his latest column. While it is disappointing to see a man considered one of the most astute observers of the Middle East taking such a blatantly disingenuous position on an issue on which he had previously staked out a strong position, it looks as if in this case his attachment to President Obama and his loathing for the administration’s critics outweighs common sense and his ability to offer a clear-eyed evaluation of the situation.

Throughout the last five years, Goldberg has been an ardent supporter of the president even while frequently expressing impatience and concern over his approach to Iran. Though no fan of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Goldberg has treated the concerns of Israel and the pro-Israel community in this country on the Iranian nuclear threat as serious and credible. He rightly refers to Iran as a despotic state sponsor of terror and believes its possession of a nuclear weapon would undermine U.S. security and that of its Arab allies as well as pose an existential threat to Israel. He understands that Iran has deceived the West in negotiations before and can’t be trusted today. He has been a proponent of tough sanctions and hard-headed diplomacy on Iran and has publicly vouched for the president’s bona fides on the issue, going so far as to be among the very few who believe that if push came to shove, Obama would order the use of force against Tehran in order to forestall its drive for a nuclear weapon.

But though he still calls himself an “Iran hawk” (a term that few, if any, other commentators on the subject have adopted), Goldberg has now officially drunk the administration’s Kool-Aid on the topic and says the deal struck in Geneva in November is the best the West can hope for. Rather than call, as he did in the past, for an end to Iran’s nuclear program, he’s veiled his former hawkishness, saying he is willing to settle for a deal that will “substantially denuclearize” the regime, a weasel-worded expression vague enough to encompass an agreement that would, as Iran demands, leave its nuclear infrastructure in place and the threat to Israel and its Arab neighbors undiminished.

While claiming to be a skeptic on the upcoming talks, he accepts the argument that any congressional move to strengthen the president’s hand in negotiations would provide the Iranians an excuse to end the negotiations. Given that Iran was brought to the table by sanctions (that were consistently opposed by the administration) this makes no sense, especially since the Iranians have so much to gain by talks that have already brought them considerable sanctions relief. By loosening the sanctions while acknowledging the Iranian right to uranium enrichment during the interim deal, the U.S. appears willing to give up much of the economic and military leverage it held over Iran. But now both the president and his supporters like Goldberg are prepared to treat Iranian bluster as an imperative that America dare not contravene. The illogical argument that the time isn’t right for more sanctions accepts this Iranian dictate in a way that undermines any hope the West can achieve the dismantling of Iran’s facilities and the export and/or destruction of all its nuclear material. The process now seems to be one in which it is the West that is the supplicant and the ayatollahs the masters of the situation.

The Iranians don’t like the idea that if the current negotiations fail they will be subjected to a new round of sanctions that would end the lucrative oil trade that is keeping the regime afloat while funding their nuclear program, terrorism, and their intervention in Syria. But without that threat, their improving economy and the prospect that Russia is prepared to engage in an oil-for-goods swap that will make a mockery of the sanctions means Iran will have no reason to treat the president’s threats of future action seriously.

This is the key point in the argument to increase sanctions that Goldberg and other administration supporters consistently mischaracterize.

Like Obama, Goldberg poses this debate as an entirely specious choice between supporters of diplomacy and those who want to fight a war against Iran. This is false. No one in Congress wants war. Neither does Israel or its friends. Nor does anyone (except perhaps for Goldberg in his least credible columns) think Obama or Congress would ever authorize a strike on Iran. To claim that is the goal of sanctions advocates is a blatant lie. To the contrary, those pushing for more sanctions understand all too well that a genuine economic embargo of Iran, rather than the leaky restrictions currently in place, is the only option that has any chance of bringing the Islamist regime to its senses by methods short of war.

The alternative to tougher sanctions isn’t the war Goldberg claims sanctions proponents want; it’s appeasement that will inevitably result in a policy of containment of a nuclear Iran that Obama says he opposes.

There’s a reason that sanctions proponents don’t trust the president to conduct diplomacy without first committing the U.S. to taking the next step toward isolating Iran once the next round of talks fail (a proposition that even Goldberg concedes is a 50-50 proposition). Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez and other sponsors of the bill remember all too well that the current sanctions about which the president boasts were watered down and then fought tooth and nail by the administration. The administration has consistently sought engagement with Iran even when it meant ignoring the regime’s bloody repression of dissidents and its drive for regional hegemony in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and the annihilation of Israel. Now it appears all too willing to turn engagement into détente and a common agenda that will allow the U.S. to substantially withdraw from the region and thereby place its allies in peril.

The idea that more sanctions now would turn the tyrants of Tehran into victims of American provocations is ridiculous. So is the claim that preventing them will allow diplomacy to work to make Iran give up what they clearly wish to retain. More sanctions may not “denuclearize” Iran, but their passage offers the only hope that this goal can be achieved by diplomacy. The only way to justify opposition to them is to demonize both administration supporters (like Menendez, Chuck Schumer, and the many other Democrats who support additional sanctions) and opponents who want to ensure that the president keeps his promises about Iran. That’s a canard that the Jeffrey Goldberg, who was a supportive but tough critic of Obama on Iran throughout his first term, would never have sunk to. But sadly, such despicable smears are all he and other administration loyalists have left. 

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Obama, Iran, and the Jews Reconsidered

President Obama hasn’t made it easy on his Jewish supporters. Conservative critics—and if polls are right, the majority of Israelis—have always doubted his intentions toward the Jewish state and suspected him of either tilting toward the Palestinians or, as veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller memorably put it, someone who was “not in love with the idea of Israel.” But for the majority of American Jews who remain loyal Democrats and liberals, Obama was, at worst, a satisfactory ally of Israel, and, at best, the misunderstood victim of smears. At times, the president’s penchant for picking fights with the Netanyahu government over settlements, borders, and even a consensus Jewish issue like Jerusalem caused some liberal true believers like lawyer and author Alan Dershowitz to worry about his intentions. But even when the relationship between Washington and Jerusalem was at its worst during the past five years, the president’s supporters could point to the issue of paramount importance to Israel’s security and claim with some justification that he was as solid an ally as could be asked.

That issue was, of course, the Iranian nuclear threat, and from the earliest days of his first presidential campaign, Obama had made it clear that he would never allow them to gain a nuclear weapon. Though he had also mentioned his desire for a rapprochement with Iran in that first campaign, the president’s rhetoric on Iran was consistent and strong. Critics could point to failed efforts at engagement, his slowness to back tough sanctions, and his reliance on a shaky diplomatic process as undermining that rhetoric. Yet administration backers like columnist Jeffrey Goldberg continued to make the case that on this point there could be no doubting the president’s resolve.

But in the wake of this past weekend’s nuclear agreement with Iran and the evidence that the president has not only ignored Israel’s concerns about the deal (as well as those of Saudi Arabia) but appears to want a détente with Tehran that will upend America’s entire stance on the Middle East, it’s fair to say that the president has put his backers into a new and even more difficult test. Liberals may be lining up to take Obama and Secretary of State Kerry at their word that they have not given up their determination to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and even accept the claim that the deal makes Israel safer. But given the administration’s acceptance of Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium and its apparent belief that it is unrealistic to think that Tehran can be forced to give up its nuclear program, belief in its bona fides on this issue can no longer be considered anything more than a leap of faith. At this point, American friends of Israel as well as those who understand the grave threat that Iran poses to U.S. interests and security need to face the fact that this president has abandoned them.

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President Obama hasn’t made it easy on his Jewish supporters. Conservative critics—and if polls are right, the majority of Israelis—have always doubted his intentions toward the Jewish state and suspected him of either tilting toward the Palestinians or, as veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller memorably put it, someone who was “not in love with the idea of Israel.” But for the majority of American Jews who remain loyal Democrats and liberals, Obama was, at worst, a satisfactory ally of Israel, and, at best, the misunderstood victim of smears. At times, the president’s penchant for picking fights with the Netanyahu government over settlements, borders, and even a consensus Jewish issue like Jerusalem caused some liberal true believers like lawyer and author Alan Dershowitz to worry about his intentions. But even when the relationship between Washington and Jerusalem was at its worst during the past five years, the president’s supporters could point to the issue of paramount importance to Israel’s security and claim with some justification that he was as solid an ally as could be asked.

That issue was, of course, the Iranian nuclear threat, and from the earliest days of his first presidential campaign, Obama had made it clear that he would never allow them to gain a nuclear weapon. Though he had also mentioned his desire for a rapprochement with Iran in that first campaign, the president’s rhetoric on Iran was consistent and strong. Critics could point to failed efforts at engagement, his slowness to back tough sanctions, and his reliance on a shaky diplomatic process as undermining that rhetoric. Yet administration backers like columnist Jeffrey Goldberg continued to make the case that on this point there could be no doubting the president’s resolve.

But in the wake of this past weekend’s nuclear agreement with Iran and the evidence that the president has not only ignored Israel’s concerns about the deal (as well as those of Saudi Arabia) but appears to want a détente with Tehran that will upend America’s entire stance on the Middle East, it’s fair to say that the president has put his backers into a new and even more difficult test. Liberals may be lining up to take Obama and Secretary of State Kerry at their word that they have not given up their determination to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and even accept the claim that the deal makes Israel safer. But given the administration’s acceptance of Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium and its apparent belief that it is unrealistic to think that Tehran can be forced to give up its nuclear program, belief in its bona fides on this issue can no longer be considered anything more than a leap of faith. At this point, American friends of Israel as well as those who understand the grave threat that Iran poses to U.S. interests and security need to face the fact that this president has abandoned them.

The disappointment must be especially acute for Goldberg, who has continued to insist that Obama should be trusted on Iran, even insisting that he would, if push came to shove, order air strikes or do whatever it took to make good on his pledge. Thus, to read the latest Bloomberg column from this respected journalist is to see what happens when leaders cut their supporters off at the knees. Though the president has made Goldberg’s previous defenses of his Iran policy look silly, he is still hoping that the bottom line here won’t be complete betrayal and therefore tries weakly to rationalize or minimize what has just happened.

Goldberg’s position now is that demands for Iran to give up its nuclear program are unrealistic. That’s a new position for him, as he has never doubted that Iran’s goal was a weapon, a point that he doesn’t abandon even in his latest column when he rightly reminds us that, “Iran’s leaders are lying” about being only interested in a peaceful program. But also new is his belief that the crushing sanctions on Iran that he has been advocating for years would never bring about Iran’s capitulation. Thus he finds himself lamely accepting the administration’s excuse that a weak deal that legitimizes Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and does nothing to roll back the tremendous progress it has achieved on Obama’s watch is “the least-worst option.”

He justifies this surrender of principle by assuring himself, if not us, that Iran won’t take advantage of the opening Obama has given them. An even greater leap is his suggestion that after investing so much effort in this diplomatic campaign, the administration “might just have to walk away” from its new relationship with Iran once it realizes than Hassan Rouhani and the supposed moderates aren’t in charge in Tehran. This is absurd because, as reports about the secret diplomatic track that led to this agreement tell us, Obama’s efforts to make nice with Iran preceded Rouhani’s victory in the regime’s faux presidential election.

Equally absurd is his fainthearted attempt to reassure himself that “everything that has happened over these past months may not amount to anything at all.” Having gambled this much on appeasement of Iran, the administration isn’t backing off. No matter what tricks the Iranians pull in the next six months of talks, they know they’ve got the U.S. hooked and won’t let go. The future of the sanctions regime that neither Obama nor the Europeans ever really wanted is much more in question than Iran’s nuclear program. Only a fool would trust Iran’s word on this issue or believe that once they start to unravel, sanctions could be re-imposed.

All this puts American Jewish supporters of Israel like Goldberg in a tough position.

Liberal critics of Israel, like the J Street lobby that was set up to support Obama’s efforts to pressure the Jewish state to make concessions to the Palestinians, will instinctively back the president in any argument with Netanyahu. And it is true that most Americans are not terribly interested in involving the U.S. in yet another foreign conflict and may accept Obama and Kerry’s false argument that the alternative to a weak deal was war.

But mainstream American Jewish groups, and even most of their moderate and liberal supporters, understand what happened this past weekend was more than just another spat in a basically solid relationship. Try as they might, Obama and Kerry will be hard-pressed to persuade most supporters of Israel that they have the country’s best interests at heart as they embark on a road whose only main goal is to normalize relations with Iran.

Though American supporters of the Jewish state loved his rhetoric during his visit to Israel last spring, the president’s goal here has been to isolate America’s sole democratic ally in the Middle East. As Goldberg aptly pointed out, one of Obama’s prime objectives has been to ensure that Israel cannot act on its own or even in concert with some of its unlikely Arab allies of convenience against Iran. Indeed, that appears to be the only American objective that has actually been achieved with this agreement.

That is why Israel’s supporters cannot hesitate about backing congressional efforts to increase sanctions on Iran despite administration resistance. Jewish leaders were lied to earlier this month when senior officials tried to convince them to back off on lobbying for sanctions (an effort that met with at least partial success at first). They also lied to Netanyahu for months while Obama’s envoys were talking to Iran behind Israel’s back.

Obama has worried Jewish supporters before, but never has he so ruthlessly undermined their faith. The choice for the pro-Israel community is clear. It can, like Goldberg has done, redefine its objectives, and concede defeat on stopping Iran and/or pretend nothing has happened. Or it can find its collective voice and speak out against a terrible betrayal that gives the lie to every Obama statement about stopping Iran. If it chooses the latter, these groups will face the usual “Israel Lobby” calumnies from anti-Semites and Israel-haters who will claim they are undermining U.S. interests. But they cannot take counsel of their fears or be silenced. If they do, they will look back on this moment when it was still possible to mobilize congressional action against this betrayal with regret.

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Obama Can’t Get Even With Netanyahu

The Israeli reaction to the much talked about Jeffrey Goldberg column that Seth wrote about yesterday wasn’t long in coming. Leading members of the Likud Party claimed that Goldberg’s reporting of critical comments about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu by President Obama constituted interference in the country’s elections that will be held next week. If true, some might see it as tit-for-tat since the Israeli’s decision to highlight a snub from the president and differences with him over dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat last September was widely seen as an attempt to help Mitt Romney’s doomed presidential campaign. Netanyahu would certainly have preferred to see Obama lose. But rather than intervening, he was probably thinking that putting pressure on Obama during the lead-up to the November election would force the president to take a tougher stand on Iran. Instead, Obama, who despises the prime minister, rebuffed Netanyahu leaving him looking like an incompetent meddler.

However, the accusations that the White House used Goldberg to get even with Netanyahu are probably untrue. As much as the president and his foreign policy team detest Netanyahu, they are probably aware that an American attempt to influence the vote in Israel would backfire. Obama is deeply unpopular in Israel and every time he has picked a fight with Netanyahu it has only strengthened the prime minister’s standing at home. Netanyahu is certain to lead the next government and though the president would probably like to do something to stop that from happening, he knows he can’t. Goldberg was, as he told the Jerusalem Post, only writing what everyone already knew about the president’s feelings. Obama believes he knows what is in Israel’s “best interests” better than the man elected to lead that country. But as much as the ongoing feud between these two personalities rivets our attention, the disconnect isn’t so much between Obama and Netanyahu as it is between the American foreign policy establishment—and many liberal American Jews—and the consensus of the Israeli people. It is that gap between what most Israelis see as obvious about the moribund peace process and the conventional wisdom that is routinely churned out by the mainstream media in the United States that is the real issue.

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The Israeli reaction to the much talked about Jeffrey Goldberg column that Seth wrote about yesterday wasn’t long in coming. Leading members of the Likud Party claimed that Goldberg’s reporting of critical comments about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu by President Obama constituted interference in the country’s elections that will be held next week. If true, some might see it as tit-for-tat since the Israeli’s decision to highlight a snub from the president and differences with him over dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat last September was widely seen as an attempt to help Mitt Romney’s doomed presidential campaign. Netanyahu would certainly have preferred to see Obama lose. But rather than intervening, he was probably thinking that putting pressure on Obama during the lead-up to the November election would force the president to take a tougher stand on Iran. Instead, Obama, who despises the prime minister, rebuffed Netanyahu leaving him looking like an incompetent meddler.

However, the accusations that the White House used Goldberg to get even with Netanyahu are probably untrue. As much as the president and his foreign policy team detest Netanyahu, they are probably aware that an American attempt to influence the vote in Israel would backfire. Obama is deeply unpopular in Israel and every time he has picked a fight with Netanyahu it has only strengthened the prime minister’s standing at home. Netanyahu is certain to lead the next government and though the president would probably like to do something to stop that from happening, he knows he can’t. Goldberg was, as he told the Jerusalem Post, only writing what everyone already knew about the president’s feelings. Obama believes he knows what is in Israel’s “best interests” better than the man elected to lead that country. But as much as the ongoing feud between these two personalities rivets our attention, the disconnect isn’t so much between Obama and Netanyahu as it is between the American foreign policy establishment—and many liberal American Jews—and the consensus of the Israeli people. It is that gap between what most Israelis see as obvious about the moribund peace process and the conventional wisdom that is routinely churned out by the mainstream media in the United States that is the real issue.

Likud might get some traction by highlighting Obama’s disapproval. Israelis are well aware that in the recent past American presidents have tried to intervene in their elections with mixed results. George H.W. Bush helped sink Yitzhak Shamir in 1992. Bill Clinton’s open rooting for Shimon Peres didn’t stop Netanyahu from winning his first term as prime minister in 1996 but American disapproval was a handicap when he was beaten in 1999. But the main point here is that while Israelis don’t relish the idea of being on the outs in Washington, they are also not interested in listening to advice from Obama.

The assumption underlying Goldberg’s article was that Netanyahu is isolating his country via policies that are not aimed at encouraging “Palestinian moderates.” The decision to allow building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and its suburbs that would be kept by Israel even if there were a two-state solution are seen by Obama and the Europeans as intolerable provocations that should be punished. By not making concessions on security and territory that might tempt the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table, Netanyahu is seen as uninterested in peace or as even making an accord impossible. But most Israelis see these issues very differently.

The parties that make up Netanyahu’s current coalition are cruising to what may be a landslide victory next week because, unlike Goldberg’s White House sources and most Western talking heads, the majority of Israeli voters understand that the Palestinians—both Hamas and the supposedly more moderate Fatah-led PA—are not going to make peace no matter what Netanyahu does. They also view the notion of further withdrawals as an invitation to create another terror state like the one in Gaza in the much larger West Bank alongside Israel’s population centers.

Where Israel was once closely divided between right and left on the issue of peace initiatives, the center has shifted in the country’s politics. What Obama and most Americans don’t get about Israel is that Netanyahu is not so much the leader of the right as he is now firmly ensconced in the middle of the political spectrum. That’s why so many on the right are flocking to the banner of Naftali Bennett, the leader of the pro-settlement party that polls show will make huge gains in the upcoming election. The main difference between Netanyahu and Bennett is that the former still pays lip service to a two-state solution as the theoretical best option for Israel even though the Palestinians will never accept it, while the latter’s campaign ads say that it is no more likely to happen than another season of “The Sopranos.”

Like so much commentary about the Middle East, Obama’s evaluation of the situation via Goldberg shows that he is still focusing only on what Israel does and ignoring the reality of a Palestinian political culture that is incapable of accepting peace. If real peace were an option, no Israeli political leader would be able to resist accepting it. Pretending that such a choice is available to Israel is mere posturing, not a policy. Any American who doesn’t understand that fact has no business spouting off about what is in Israel’s best interests.

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Did Romney Exploit a Jewish Holiday?

For those who wish the Republican presidential candidate ill, there is really nothing he can do to avoid criticism. Case in point was Mitt Romney’s visit yesterday to Jerusalem. At the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg accuses him of being “vulgar” for showing up at the Western Wall on Tisha B’Av. Predictably, Peter Beinart goes even further in the Daily Beast and accuses Romney of “misusing Judaism” to bolster his campaign.

Both are dead wrong. Nothing Romney did was in poor taste or in any way showed disrespect for Jewish sensibilities. In fact, the truth was quite the opposite. Their real problem with Romney is that what he said in Israel illustrated President Obama’s shortcomings. Romney rightly expressed a more realistic assessment of the Iranian nuclear threat than the Obama administration as well as reaffirmed his commitment to reverse the president’s policy in which the U.S. has distanced itself from Israel (at least in those years in which he is not running for re-election).

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For those who wish the Republican presidential candidate ill, there is really nothing he can do to avoid criticism. Case in point was Mitt Romney’s visit yesterday to Jerusalem. At the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg accuses him of being “vulgar” for showing up at the Western Wall on Tisha B’Av. Predictably, Peter Beinart goes even further in the Daily Beast and accuses Romney of “misusing Judaism” to bolster his campaign.

Both are dead wrong. Nothing Romney did was in poor taste or in any way showed disrespect for Jewish sensibilities. In fact, the truth was quite the opposite. Their real problem with Romney is that what he said in Israel illustrated President Obama’s shortcomings. Romney rightly expressed a more realistic assessment of the Iranian nuclear threat than the Obama administration as well as reaffirmed his commitment to reverse the president’s policy in which the U.S. has distanced itself from Israel (at least in those years in which he is not running for re-election).

Goldberg’s post has an inflammatory headline, “Temple Mount Tackiness,” which seems to imply that Romney went up to the site of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which is now occupied by mosques. Any visit to the Temple Mount is fraught with symbolism and controversy (think Ariel Sharon’s 2000 stroll there which was falsely represented as the second intifada). Though the place is truly the most sacred spot in Judaism, Jews are forbidden to pray there lest Muslims think they are plotting to blow up or move the mosques. But Romney did not go up there. He merely joined the throngs praying at the Wall on the anniversary of the Temples’ destruction.

Goldberg seems to think it is wrong for a candidate to go there for a photo op on that day. Had Romney and his entourage barged in and disrupted prayer services, Goldberg might have had a point. But he did not. There was no service going on there at the time, just the usual milling crowds of tourists and the faithful who can be found there on any day. Romney’s behavior was exemplary. To speak of vulgarity is absurd and says more about Goldberg’s crush on Barack Obama than it does about Romney.

More to the point, the symbolism of an American politician going to the Wall on the day that Jews remember the tragedies that have befallen them throughout history is particularly apt. Given the existential threats that still face Israel, the reaffirmation of the U.S. alliance seems to be exactly the sort of thing Jews ought to welcome.

But, of course, that reaffirmation is exactly what troubles Beinart.

Beinart is offended by Romney’s belief the United States ought not to show any public daylight between its positions and Israel. Doing so, as President Obama has done, damages the already dim hopes for peace because such actions encourage the Palestinians to become even more intransigent. Obama’s pressure on Israel has led the Palestinians to believe they don’t have to negotiate with the Jewish state because they think the U.S. will hand them Israeli concessions on a silver platter without them having to give an inch.

But, of course, Beinart doesn’t want any politicians, be they Democrats or Republicans, to show the kind of heartfelt support that Romney expressed. He wants the U.S. to run roughshod over the democratic will of the Israeli people in order to further his unrealistic vision of peace with a Palestinian people who have little interest in such a scheme.

Beinart backs up this point of view, but assuming the pose of a scholar of Judaism and Jewish history is the conceit of his laughably inept book about saving Zionism.

From his perspective, the comments of Romney and Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tisha B’Av in which they noted the need to ensure that the Jews are saved from future catastrophes, are “bad Judaism.” Beinart is right to note that one of the keynotes of the observance of the ninth of Av is introspection in which Jews should learn to avoid the mindless hatred that tradition tells us caused the fall of the Temples. A cynic would note that if anyone is in need of lessons on “introspection and humility” it might be an author who presumes to preach to Israelis while demonstrating little understanding of their concerns. But leaving Beinart’s shortcomings aside, that is not the only perspective on the holiday. It is certainly not the only thing those tasked with dealing with the geo-strategic realities of the Middle East should be thinking about.

It is all well and good to say, as Beinart does, that we all have a little bit of evil within us. But according to him, this insight should lead Israelis not to obsess about the fact that much of the Muslim and Arab world still wishes to wipe them out. Even worse, he thinks that on the day that Jews contemplate the crimes and atrocities committed against them during the last three millennia, they should worry more about the sensibilities of those who are still plotting such evil. Indeed, he thinks the mere fact that Romney failed to mention the Palestinians in a speech devoted to the U.S.-Israel alliance and the need to stop Iran from making good on its genocidal threats “denied the humanity” of the Palestinians.

The most charitable thing that can be said about such an analysis is that Beinart is about as much of an expert on Judaism as he is representative of American Jewish opinion. President Obama’s election year Jewish charm offensive shows he understands the overwhelming majority of American Jews reject Beinart’s view that Israel must be saved from itself or that selective boycotts and brutal pressure should be employed to bring it to its knees so as to facilitate his vision of its future. Tisha B’Av is an apt day for Jews and all people of good will to remember the stakes in the Middle East conflict and of the need to ensure that Jerusalem never again falls to those who would destroy the Jewish people.

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If Obama’s Rhetoric on Syria is a Joke, Why Trust Him on Iran?

On most issues, Jeffrey Goldberg has been a dependable cheerleader for the Obama administration. But the president’s feckless stand on the ongoing slaughter in Syria has caused Goldberg to write one of the best takedowns of the president’s inaction I’ve read. The piece, published yesterday in Bloomberg, is a comic gem as it describes how “Obama Hits Syria With Brutal Blasts of Adverbs.”

Some critics say the U.S. has shamed itself by not intervening aggressively on behalf of Syria’s rebels and dissidents.

They’re wrong. The Obama administration hasn’t helped to arm the rebels, nor has it created safe havens for persecuted dissidents. But it has done something far more important: It has provided the Syrian opposition with very strong language to describe Assad’s various atrocities.

The administration’s unprecedented verbal and written sorties against the Assad regime have included some of the most powerful adjectives, adjectival intensifiers and adverbs ever aimed at an American foe. This campaign has helped Syrians understand, among other things, that the English language contains many synonyms for “repulsive.”

This is great stuff, and Goldberg goes on from there to note the absurdity of administration officials repeatedly speaking of their patience being “exhausted” and wonders how worried Bashar al-Assad will be when Washington’s patience is “completely exhausted.” But one wonders why the author of this wonderful riff on Obama’s meaningless tough talk on Syria thinks the president’s equally meaningless verbal assault on Iran is credible?

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On most issues, Jeffrey Goldberg has been a dependable cheerleader for the Obama administration. But the president’s feckless stand on the ongoing slaughter in Syria has caused Goldberg to write one of the best takedowns of the president’s inaction I’ve read. The piece, published yesterday in Bloomberg, is a comic gem as it describes how “Obama Hits Syria With Brutal Blasts of Adverbs.”

Some critics say the U.S. has shamed itself by not intervening aggressively on behalf of Syria’s rebels and dissidents.

They’re wrong. The Obama administration hasn’t helped to arm the rebels, nor has it created safe havens for persecuted dissidents. But it has done something far more important: It has provided the Syrian opposition with very strong language to describe Assad’s various atrocities.

The administration’s unprecedented verbal and written sorties against the Assad regime have included some of the most powerful adjectives, adjectival intensifiers and adverbs ever aimed at an American foe. This campaign has helped Syrians understand, among other things, that the English language contains many synonyms for “repulsive.”

This is great stuff, and Goldberg goes on from there to note the absurdity of administration officials repeatedly speaking of their patience being “exhausted” and wonders how worried Bashar al-Assad will be when Washington’s patience is “completely exhausted.” But one wonders why the author of this wonderful riff on Obama’s meaningless tough talk on Syria thinks the president’s equally meaningless verbal assault on Iran is credible?

This is, after all, the same Jeffrey Goldberg who has consistently sought to assure friends of Israel that President Obama’s stance on Iran is more than mere rhetoric though, in fact, it has consisted of little but a collection of ominous adverbs punctuated by defenses of engagement and diplomacy since he took office. Granted, the president has reluctantly embraced sanctions on Iran (though he was way behind France and Britain on this score), but it is fairly obvious that he did so only to maneuver Israel into a situation where it could not attack the Islamist regime on its own.

Goldberg rightly dismisses the notion that Obama’s rhetoric about Syria consists of anything more than lip service, yet he believes Obama can be trusted to eventually escalate his stance on the Islamist ayatollahs from rhetoric to action. When people wonder why many in Israel have little faith in the president’s word on Iran, especially once he gets the “flexibility” that a second term would provide, perhaps we should refer them to Goldberg’s column on the administration’s verbal offensive against Assad.

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Goldberg Interview Can’t Disguise the Divide Between Obama and Israel

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg was rewarded for years of diligent cheerleading for Barack Obama with an exclusive interview that was published this morning. Goldberg asks some interesting questions as well as some that can be characterized as mere sucking up. But though there’s not much here that we haven’t already heard, the transcript of the exchange provides a summary of the Obama attempt to persuade Israel, American supporters of Israel, Iran and the rest of the world that he means business about stopping Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons.

Obama is at pains to try to assert he doesn’t “bluff” when it comes to threatening the use of force, but after three years of a feckless engagement policy followed by a largely ineffective effort to impose sanctions on Iran, it’s hard to find anyone who really believes he would actually launch a strike to prevent the ayatollahs from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. Much of what the president says in this interview is exactly what he should be stating. But his credibility is undermined by his disingenuous attempt to deny that until his re-election campaign began the keynote of his Middle East policy was to distance the United States from Israel. Equally false is his attempt to make it seem as if he doesn’t despise Israel’s prime minister.

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The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg was rewarded for years of diligent cheerleading for Barack Obama with an exclusive interview that was published this morning. Goldberg asks some interesting questions as well as some that can be characterized as mere sucking up. But though there’s not much here that we haven’t already heard, the transcript of the exchange provides a summary of the Obama attempt to persuade Israel, American supporters of Israel, Iran and the rest of the world that he means business about stopping Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons.

Obama is at pains to try to assert he doesn’t “bluff” when it comes to threatening the use of force, but after three years of a feckless engagement policy followed by a largely ineffective effort to impose sanctions on Iran, it’s hard to find anyone who really believes he would actually launch a strike to prevent the ayatollahs from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. Much of what the president says in this interview is exactly what he should be stating. But his credibility is undermined by his disingenuous attempt to deny that until his re-election campaign began the keynote of his Middle East policy was to distance the United States from Israel. Equally false is his attempt to make it seem as if he doesn’t despise Israel’s prime minister.

Obama complains, with Goldberg’s assent, that it is unfair to characterize his administration as unfriendly to Israel. But in order to buy into his assumption, you have to ignore the entire tenor and much of the substance of the U.S.-Israel relationship since January 2009. Though, as I have often written, Barack Obama has not sought to obstruct the decades-old security alliance between the two countries, he has needlessly and repeatedly quarreled with Israel’s government in such a way as to create the justified impression there is a wide gap between America and the Jewish state on a host of issues including borders, security arrangements, Jerusalem and settlements.

More to the point, despite Obama’s statements about an Iranian nuke being as much a danger to the United States and the West as it is to Israel, talk is cheap, and that is all he has ever done on the issue. That has left Israel with the impression Obama will never take action on an issue that is an existential threat to the Jewish state.

The Goldberg interview is, of course, not just one more salvo in the administration’s charm offensive to American Jewish voters. It is part of his effort to head off an Israeli strike on Iran, something he may fear far more than the ayatollahs getting their fingers on the nuclear button. For all of his lip service to the Iranian threat, Obama clearly is still more worried about Israel.

But the problem is Obama is bluffing when he talks about being willing to hit Iran. His halfhearted attempt to force Iran to its knees via sanctions is failing, and the idea that waiting until the end of the year (when, Obama hopes, he will be safely re-elected and thus free from needing to worry about Jewish voters or donors) to see if it works is just hot air. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who will be in Washington to meet with Obama following his address to the AIPAC conference, knows this, and that will be focal point of their next confrontation.

Netanyahu knows Obama does not have his country’s back despite Goldberg’s cajoling this promise out of the president. But he will likely smile when he reads Obama’s answer to Goldberg’s question about the relationship between the two men. Though Obama has bragged of his close relationships with other leaders such as the Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he makes little effort to disguise his contempt for Netanyahu. He tells Goldberg he and Netanyahu are too busy to discuss anything other than policy. Obama then slips up a bit and attempts to explain their differences as being the result of belonging to “different political traditions,” as if there was some sort of natural tension between being an American Democrat and an Israeli Likudnik. This actually tells us more about Obama than anything else.

The truth is, these two “traditions” are not natural antagonists because they are the result of two entirely different political systems and histories. If Obama sees them as inherently opposed to each other it is because his conception of American liberalism sees an Israeli nationalist faction dedicated to their nation’s security as somehow antithetical to his own view. In fact, the origins of both parties are “liberal” with a small “l” in the sense that they are based on the idea of democracy and opposed to socialism. Indeed, the Likud is far closer to both American major parties because it is dedicated to free market principles the Israeli left abhors.

The divide here is not between a Democrat and a member of the Likud but between an American who is ambivalent about Israel and an Israeli who is deeply sympathetic to the United States. That is why a close reading of Goldberg’s attempt to help Obama to portray himself as Israel’s best friend only reinforces the phony nature of the president’s Jewish charm offensive.

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Middle East Optimism Requires Blinders

Optimism about peace between Israel and the Palestinians has always been a matter of religious faith rather than rational analysis. Every new proof that the process begun in 1993 with the Oslo Accords was based on false premises must be dismissed or ignored simply because believers in peace insist it is possible and because they wish it be so. While the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has not generally been among the most dogged optimists about peace, he was still willing to co-author a 2,200-word essay with Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine published on today’s New York Times op-ed page that argues that despite the evidence of our lying eyes, there is still plenty of room for belief that the process can be revived.

Their thesis rests on the idea that changes in the political cultures of both Israel and the Palestinians make progress inevitable. It is true that there is an overwhelming consensus within Israel in favor of a two-state solution and that even the supposedly intransigent right-wing government of the country has made it clear it is ready to accept a Palestinian state. It is also true that the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad has made great strides toward making the territories a better place for its inhabitants, though Goldberg and Ibish overestimate the PA’s abandonment of anti-Semitic incitement and the language of delegitimization of Israel. The PA has also created a security apparatus that has been allowed greater scope by the Israelis, and Abbas and Fayyad understand it is in their interest to clamp down on terrorism.

These are factors that theoretically ought to allow the two sides to come to an agreement and finally make peace. But that hasn’t happened. The reason is that the less-hopeful developments of the past few years are still far more important in determining whether the conflict can be brought to an end. Read More

Optimism about peace between Israel and the Palestinians has always been a matter of religious faith rather than rational analysis. Every new proof that the process begun in 1993 with the Oslo Accords was based on false premises must be dismissed or ignored simply because believers in peace insist it is possible and because they wish it be so. While the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has not generally been among the most dogged optimists about peace, he was still willing to co-author a 2,200-word essay with Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine published on today’s New York Times op-ed page that argues that despite the evidence of our lying eyes, there is still plenty of room for belief that the process can be revived.

Their thesis rests on the idea that changes in the political cultures of both Israel and the Palestinians make progress inevitable. It is true that there is an overwhelming consensus within Israel in favor of a two-state solution and that even the supposedly intransigent right-wing government of the country has made it clear it is ready to accept a Palestinian state. It is also true that the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad has made great strides toward making the territories a better place for its inhabitants, though Goldberg and Ibish overestimate the PA’s abandonment of anti-Semitic incitement and the language of delegitimization of Israel. The PA has also created a security apparatus that has been allowed greater scope by the Israelis, and Abbas and Fayyad understand it is in their interest to clamp down on terrorism.

These are factors that theoretically ought to allow the two sides to come to an agreement and finally make peace. But that hasn’t happened. The reason is that the less-hopeful developments of the past few years are still far more important in determining whether the conflict can be brought to an end.

The chief of these is the power of Hamas. Optimists like Goldberg acknowledge the fact that Gaza is a Hamas state and that no peace can be signed without its agreement. Unacknowledged in the Goldberg-Ibish piece is the fact that Abbas’s hold on the West Bank rests not on his legitimacy or the strength of his forces but on Israel’s unwillingness to allow it to fall into the hands of Hamas, as happened in Gaza in 2006. After all, Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert offered Abbas a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2008 and was turned down flat. President Obama’s foolish insistence on an Israeli settlement freeze even in those areas (as the recently released Al Jazeera documents show) the PA had already agreed would stay in Israeli hands has made it impossible for those talks to be renewed. But even if Abbas were to return to the table, he would be faced with the same dilemma he had before. Were he to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders were drawn, he would face the wrath of his own people (as the reaction from the released documents proves), and even Israel’s support might not be enough to keep him in power, or alive.

Goldberg and Ibish conclude their lengthy article by calling for both Netanyahu and Abbas to visit the other side and acknowledge their antagonists’ respective rights and pain much in the way that Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan once did. But they forget that the original Oslo Accords were just such an acknowledgment, and that while Israelis swooned over such gestures (even though Yasir Arafat’s credibility was very much doubtful), Palestinians merely took Israel’s willingness to make concessions as a sign of weakness and lack of faith in the rightness of their cause. Moreover, Abbas doesn’t dare do more. In a region where both Israel and the PA are faced with the growing influence of Iran and its allies Hezbollah (which is moving toward control of Lebanon) and Hamas, the tide of extremism is more than a match for Fayyad’s pragmatism. Under such circumstances, optimism about peace requires the sort of tunnel vision that comes only with blind faith.

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Morning Commentary

I’m going to guess that, for President Obama, getting praised by Dick Cheney is a whole lot worse than being criticized by him. During an interview that aired on the Today show this morning, the former vice president noted that Obama has continued many of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies (“I think he’s learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate”). Cheney also spoke about how he was perceived by the public during his last few years in office (“I was there to do a job. And if it meant I had to break some china to get the job done, I did it”).

Does Hillary Clinton’s speech on Tunisia last Thursday indicate a return of the freedom agenda? Lee Smith wonders whether her tough talk on human rights helped bring down Ben Ali: “Over the last two years the Obama administration has rightly been excoriated for ignoring human rights issues throughout the Arabic-speaking Middle East. … But Thursday afternoon in Doha Secretary Clinton fired a shot across the bow of the Arab political order.”

Ahead of Saturday’s nuclear talks between P5+1 and Tehran, Iran’s nuclear negotiator has accused the U.S. of launching a “cyberattack” against the country’s facilities and claims to have documentation of U.S. involvement in Stuxnet (where would he have gotten that impression?): “‘Those who have done that could see now that they were not successful in that and we are following our success,’ he said. He added that Iran is not the only country vulnerable to cyberattacks, as evidenced by the WikiLeaks release of U.S. diplomatic cables. ‘They are also weak and vulnerable,’ he said of the United States.”

In an interview with Just Journalism, Dr. Avner Cohen took a swipe at Jeffrey Goldberg’s Iran article from last summer, which estimated that Israel had more than a 50 percent chance of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities by next July: “I never believed the alarmist story by Jeffrey Goldberg in July — I thought that he was speculating (or led by others to advance a highly speculative view) about issues that were not decided then, and surely much less so today.” Cohen also criticized the recent suggestion that Iran won’t be capable of building a bomb until 2015: “I think that anybody who suggests a concrete timetable is a fool. I do not take seriously any timetable.”

National Review’s Katrina Trinko explains why you should take those two new ObamaCare polls with a grain of salt: “Take the AP poll, which shows that 40 percent of adults support Obamacare and 41 percent oppose it. In November, the last time the AP polled this question, 38 percent supported Obamacare and 47 percent opposed it.  But the sample in November was very different: 38 percent Republican and 39 percent Democrat. The sample in January wasn’t so balanced, with 42 percent of the responders Democrat and 36 percent Republican.”

I’m going to guess that, for President Obama, getting praised by Dick Cheney is a whole lot worse than being criticized by him. During an interview that aired on the Today show this morning, the former vice president noted that Obama has continued many of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies (“I think he’s learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate”). Cheney also spoke about how he was perceived by the public during his last few years in office (“I was there to do a job. And if it meant I had to break some china to get the job done, I did it”).

Does Hillary Clinton’s speech on Tunisia last Thursday indicate a return of the freedom agenda? Lee Smith wonders whether her tough talk on human rights helped bring down Ben Ali: “Over the last two years the Obama administration has rightly been excoriated for ignoring human rights issues throughout the Arabic-speaking Middle East. … But Thursday afternoon in Doha Secretary Clinton fired a shot across the bow of the Arab political order.”

Ahead of Saturday’s nuclear talks between P5+1 and Tehran, Iran’s nuclear negotiator has accused the U.S. of launching a “cyberattack” against the country’s facilities and claims to have documentation of U.S. involvement in Stuxnet (where would he have gotten that impression?): “‘Those who have done that could see now that they were not successful in that and we are following our success,’ he said. He added that Iran is not the only country vulnerable to cyberattacks, as evidenced by the WikiLeaks release of U.S. diplomatic cables. ‘They are also weak and vulnerable,’ he said of the United States.”

In an interview with Just Journalism, Dr. Avner Cohen took a swipe at Jeffrey Goldberg’s Iran article from last summer, which estimated that Israel had more than a 50 percent chance of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities by next July: “I never believed the alarmist story by Jeffrey Goldberg in July — I thought that he was speculating (or led by others to advance a highly speculative view) about issues that were not decided then, and surely much less so today.” Cohen also criticized the recent suggestion that Iran won’t be capable of building a bomb until 2015: “I think that anybody who suggests a concrete timetable is a fool. I do not take seriously any timetable.”

National Review’s Katrina Trinko explains why you should take those two new ObamaCare polls with a grain of salt: “Take the AP poll, which shows that 40 percent of adults support Obamacare and 41 percent oppose it. In November, the last time the AP polled this question, 38 percent supported Obamacare and 47 percent opposed it.  But the sample in November was very different: 38 percent Republican and 39 percent Democrat. The sample in January wasn’t so balanced, with 42 percent of the responders Democrat and 36 percent Republican.”

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The ‘Let Me Be Clear’ Jews

Jeffrey Goldberg stipulates that Jerusalem is Judaism’s holiest city; Jews have a right to live wherever they want; the Shepherd Hotel is not “in and of itself” a morally profound issue (“It was bought legally by Jewish buyers years ago; it did not house Palestinians; and it is associated historically with the former Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, who was an actual bona fide Nazi”); and the world’s focus on 20 apartments for Jews is “disproportionate.”

But Goldberg nevertheless concludes that apartments for Jews in Sheikh Jarrah are not in “the Jewish self-interest.” He attempts to make this seem self-evident by positing two kinds of Jews (see if you can guess which kind describes him):

If a Jewish person’s only concern as a Jew is the acquisition of every square inch of biblical Israel on behalf of the Jewish people, then I suppose it is a Jewish interest. But if a Jewish person has other interests as well — such as in peace, or in the idea that Palestinians, though a much newer people than the Jewish people, deserve a state just as Jews do, or in the continued survival of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state – than [sic] the slow takeover of Sheikh Jarrah is not in the best Jewish interest.

But surely there are more categories of “Jewish persons” than (1) those whose “only concern” is acquiring “every square inch” of biblical Israel, and (2) those interested in peace and the survival of Israel as a democratic Jewish state and who believe Palestinians also deserve a state. Where is the Committee for More Labels when you need it?

There is at least one other category — Jews who believe that peace is best assured by keeping Jerusalem undivided (with free access to all religious sites) and who think the Palestinians have a right to a state only if they are willing to recognize a Jewish one with defensible borders. This group would include, for starters, the thousands who gave a thunderous ovation to a future president when he told them in 2008:

Let me be clear. … The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

This third group also believes there is a morally profound issue relating to the Sheikh Jarrah apartments — one that Israel, as a democratic country, should make clear: “Just as Arab residents of Jerusalem can buy or rent property in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Jews can buy or rent property in predominantly Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.”

I’ll have to come up with a good label for this group.

Jeffrey Goldberg stipulates that Jerusalem is Judaism’s holiest city; Jews have a right to live wherever they want; the Shepherd Hotel is not “in and of itself” a morally profound issue (“It was bought legally by Jewish buyers years ago; it did not house Palestinians; and it is associated historically with the former Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, who was an actual bona fide Nazi”); and the world’s focus on 20 apartments for Jews is “disproportionate.”

But Goldberg nevertheless concludes that apartments for Jews in Sheikh Jarrah are not in “the Jewish self-interest.” He attempts to make this seem self-evident by positing two kinds of Jews (see if you can guess which kind describes him):

If a Jewish person’s only concern as a Jew is the acquisition of every square inch of biblical Israel on behalf of the Jewish people, then I suppose it is a Jewish interest. But if a Jewish person has other interests as well — such as in peace, or in the idea that Palestinians, though a much newer people than the Jewish people, deserve a state just as Jews do, or in the continued survival of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state – than [sic] the slow takeover of Sheikh Jarrah is not in the best Jewish interest.

But surely there are more categories of “Jewish persons” than (1) those whose “only concern” is acquiring “every square inch” of biblical Israel, and (2) those interested in peace and the survival of Israel as a democratic Jewish state and who believe Palestinians also deserve a state. Where is the Committee for More Labels when you need it?

There is at least one other category — Jews who believe that peace is best assured by keeping Jerusalem undivided (with free access to all religious sites) and who think the Palestinians have a right to a state only if they are willing to recognize a Jewish one with defensible borders. This group would include, for starters, the thousands who gave a thunderous ovation to a future president when he told them in 2008:

Let me be clear. … The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

This third group also believes there is a morally profound issue relating to the Sheikh Jarrah apartments — one that Israel, as a democratic country, should make clear: “Just as Arab residents of Jerusalem can buy or rent property in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Jews can buy or rent property in predominantly Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.”

I’ll have to come up with a good label for this group.

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Afternoon Commentary

Vladmir Putin’s political opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted of money laundering and embezzlement yesterday in what many have denounced as a show-trial. The verdict came as no surprise to Khodorkovsky, who calmly read a book as the judge issued the decision. U.S. officials have offered some token condemnations of the conviction, but clearly the Obama administration is unwilling to take any action that might disrupt the “reset” process with Russia just days after the New START treaty was ratified by Congress.

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai may be brought up on treason charges, after WikiLeaks cables revealed that he privately asked the U.S. to keep sanctions against his country in place: “State media reports have said hardline supporters of the president, Robert Mugabe, want an official inquiry into Tsvangirai’s discussion of international sanctions with the US ambassador in Harare. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party said last week the government should draft a law that makes it a treasonable offence to call for sanctions.” The punishment for high treason is the death penalty in Zimbabwe. Tsvangarai, a longtime foe of the dictatorial Mugabe, has discovered that being inside his government may be as dangerous as being outside of it.

President Obama continues to use the argument that Guantanamo Bay is al Qaeda’s “number one recruitment tool.” But how often do terror leaders actually mention Gitmo? At the Weekly Standard, Thomas Joscelyn scours the transcripts of the public speeches of al Qaeda leaders since 2009, and finds that very few refer to the detention facility.

The unwillingness of many libertarians to compromise ideological principles – even among themselves – prevents the movement from gaining any serious political power, writes Christopher Beam in New York magazine: “It’s no coincidence that most libertarians discover the philosophy as teenagers. At best, libertarianism means pursuing your own self-interest, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. At worst, as in Ayn Rand’s teachings, it’s an explicit celebration of narcissism. ‘Man’s first duty is to himself,’ says the young architect Howard Roark in his climactic speech in The Fountainhead. ‘His moral obligation is to do what he wishes.’ Roark utters these words after dynamiting his own project, since his vision for the structure had been altered without his permission. The message: Never compromise.”

In case you needed a reminder on what a joke the UN is, Mary Katharine Ham rounded up the top 10 most “UN-believable” moments of 2010. Number 4: “The UN narrowly avoided putting Iran on its Commission on the Status of Women — a sort of sop to the Islamic Republic in the wake of its rejection for the Human Rights Council — thanks to loud push-back from the U.S. and human-rights groups. Perhaps stoning was a bridge too far. But it does now boast Saudi Arabia as a member of the commission. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, must always wear abaya in public, and are punished for being in public without a male relative as an escort.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticizes Israel as an obstacle to peace, and promises that an independent state of Palestine won’t allow a single Israeli within its borders. “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it,” Abbas told reporters on Saturday. (Cue crickets chirping from the left).

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg groundlessly worries about whether Israel will soon cease being a democracy: “Let’s just say, as a hypothetical, that one day in the near future, Prime Minister [Avigdor] Lieberman’s government (don’t laugh, it’s not funny) proposes a bill that echoes the recent call by some rabbis to discourage Jews from selling their homes to Arabs. Or let’s say that Lieberman’s government annexes swaths of the West Bank in order to take in Jewish settlements, but announces summarily that the Arabs in the annexed territory are in fact citizens of Jordan, and can vote there if they want to, but they won’t be voting in Israel. What happens then?” Say what you will about Lieberman but, actually, his position has always been that some Arab towns and villages that are part of Israel should be given to a Palestinian state while Jewish settlement blocs are annexed to Israel. That may not be what the Palestinians want or even what many Israelis want but the outcome Lieberman desires would be a democratic and Jewish state.

Vladmir Putin’s political opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted of money laundering and embezzlement yesterday in what many have denounced as a show-trial. The verdict came as no surprise to Khodorkovsky, who calmly read a book as the judge issued the decision. U.S. officials have offered some token condemnations of the conviction, but clearly the Obama administration is unwilling to take any action that might disrupt the “reset” process with Russia just days after the New START treaty was ratified by Congress.

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai may be brought up on treason charges, after WikiLeaks cables revealed that he privately asked the U.S. to keep sanctions against his country in place: “State media reports have said hardline supporters of the president, Robert Mugabe, want an official inquiry into Tsvangirai’s discussion of international sanctions with the US ambassador in Harare. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party said last week the government should draft a law that makes it a treasonable offence to call for sanctions.” The punishment for high treason is the death penalty in Zimbabwe. Tsvangarai, a longtime foe of the dictatorial Mugabe, has discovered that being inside his government may be as dangerous as being outside of it.

President Obama continues to use the argument that Guantanamo Bay is al Qaeda’s “number one recruitment tool.” But how often do terror leaders actually mention Gitmo? At the Weekly Standard, Thomas Joscelyn scours the transcripts of the public speeches of al Qaeda leaders since 2009, and finds that very few refer to the detention facility.

The unwillingness of many libertarians to compromise ideological principles – even among themselves – prevents the movement from gaining any serious political power, writes Christopher Beam in New York magazine: “It’s no coincidence that most libertarians discover the philosophy as teenagers. At best, libertarianism means pursuing your own self-interest, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. At worst, as in Ayn Rand’s teachings, it’s an explicit celebration of narcissism. ‘Man’s first duty is to himself,’ says the young architect Howard Roark in his climactic speech in The Fountainhead. ‘His moral obligation is to do what he wishes.’ Roark utters these words after dynamiting his own project, since his vision for the structure had been altered without his permission. The message: Never compromise.”

In case you needed a reminder on what a joke the UN is, Mary Katharine Ham rounded up the top 10 most “UN-believable” moments of 2010. Number 4: “The UN narrowly avoided putting Iran on its Commission on the Status of Women — a sort of sop to the Islamic Republic in the wake of its rejection for the Human Rights Council — thanks to loud push-back from the U.S. and human-rights groups. Perhaps stoning was a bridge too far. But it does now boast Saudi Arabia as a member of the commission. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, must always wear abaya in public, and are punished for being in public without a male relative as an escort.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticizes Israel as an obstacle to peace, and promises that an independent state of Palestine won’t allow a single Israeli within its borders. “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it,” Abbas told reporters on Saturday. (Cue crickets chirping from the left).

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg groundlessly worries about whether Israel will soon cease being a democracy: “Let’s just say, as a hypothetical, that one day in the near future, Prime Minister [Avigdor] Lieberman’s government (don’t laugh, it’s not funny) proposes a bill that echoes the recent call by some rabbis to discourage Jews from selling their homes to Arabs. Or let’s say that Lieberman’s government annexes swaths of the West Bank in order to take in Jewish settlements, but announces summarily that the Arabs in the annexed territory are in fact citizens of Jordan, and can vote there if they want to, but they won’t be voting in Israel. What happens then?” Say what you will about Lieberman but, actually, his position has always been that some Arab towns and villages that are part of Israel should be given to a Palestinian state while Jewish settlement blocs are annexed to Israel. That may not be what the Palestinians want or even what many Israelis want but the outcome Lieberman desires would be a democratic and Jewish state.

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NIF Cuts Off Funding for BDS Groups

Some Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions groups are going to have to find a new way to bankroll their important anti-Israel endeavors (hummus boycotts, costume parties, impromptu choral performances) because the New Israel Fund is cutting off funding for organizations involved in the BDS movement.

NIF has been criticized for giving grants to groups that engage in anti-Israel boycott campaigns, such as Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, Mossawa, Machsom Watch, and Women Against Violence. The fund amended its website on Dec. 13 to reflect its change in policy:

The NIF opposes the global BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as ineffective and counterproductive and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel.

NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.

I’m really pleased to see NIF finally come around on this issue. But as Jeffrey Goldberg noted at the Atlantic, NIF’s statement stopped short of rebuking the BDS movement as a whole. “I was slightly taken aback by [CEO Daniel] Sokatch’s statement that, ‘segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel,’” wrote Goldberg. “I would say that undermining the existence of the state of Israel is this movement’s raison d’etre.”

And while the change in policy is still new, several of the boycott groups that NIF was funding have yet to remove their affiliations with NIF from their websites. Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, and Mossawa are still asking their donors to route contributions through NIF.

NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that has pressured the New Israel Fund to cut ties with BDS groups, asked for these links to be removed. “NIF now needs to implement these important new guidelines,” [NGO Monitor president] Professor Gerald Steinberg [wrote]. “Despite NIF’s new policy, CWP’s and Who Profits’ websites still provide links for donations via NIF.  These links should be removed immediately. We also expect NIF to clarify how and when the new grant guidelines will be enforced, and we are prepared to work with NIF and its donors in their implementation. As NIF severs ties with groups that promote BDS, it is on the same page as NGO Monitor.”

Also, while scrolling through NIF’s funding guidelines on its website, I came across another statement outlining the group’s policy on “lawfare” that (I think) is new:

As the leading organization advancing democracy in Israel, the New Israel Fund strongly believes that our job is to work within Israel to ensure democratic accountability.

With a free press, involved citizenry, a strong and independent judiciary, and a track record of officially constituted commissions and committees of inquiry, there are internal means to hold Israeli leaders accountable to the law, and we work to strengthen all those institutions. We therefore firmly oppose attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in foreign courts as an inherent principle of our dedication to Israeli democracy.

While it’s great to hear that NIF opposes lawfare, this statement means absolutely nothing unless the organization is willing to stop funding organizations that use lawfare tactics against Israel. The New Israel Fund practically is the lawfare movement — its grants basically keep the campaign alive. If NIF cut off financing to lawfare groups, it could cripple the movement.

So while these policy changes are an improvement, it looks like NIF still has a ways to go before it can be considered a respectable pro-Israel group.

Some Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions groups are going to have to find a new way to bankroll their important anti-Israel endeavors (hummus boycotts, costume parties, impromptu choral performances) because the New Israel Fund is cutting off funding for organizations involved in the BDS movement.

NIF has been criticized for giving grants to groups that engage in anti-Israel boycott campaigns, such as Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, Mossawa, Machsom Watch, and Women Against Violence. The fund amended its website on Dec. 13 to reflect its change in policy:

The NIF opposes the global BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as ineffective and counterproductive and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel.

NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.

I’m really pleased to see NIF finally come around on this issue. But as Jeffrey Goldberg noted at the Atlantic, NIF’s statement stopped short of rebuking the BDS movement as a whole. “I was slightly taken aback by [CEO Daniel] Sokatch’s statement that, ‘segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel,’” wrote Goldberg. “I would say that undermining the existence of the state of Israel is this movement’s raison d’etre.”

And while the change in policy is still new, several of the boycott groups that NIF was funding have yet to remove their affiliations with NIF from their websites. Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, and Mossawa are still asking their donors to route contributions through NIF.

NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that has pressured the New Israel Fund to cut ties with BDS groups, asked for these links to be removed. “NIF now needs to implement these important new guidelines,” [NGO Monitor president] Professor Gerald Steinberg [wrote]. “Despite NIF’s new policy, CWP’s and Who Profits’ websites still provide links for donations via NIF.  These links should be removed immediately. We also expect NIF to clarify how and when the new grant guidelines will be enforced, and we are prepared to work with NIF and its donors in their implementation. As NIF severs ties with groups that promote BDS, it is on the same page as NGO Monitor.”

Also, while scrolling through NIF’s funding guidelines on its website, I came across another statement outlining the group’s policy on “lawfare” that (I think) is new:

As the leading organization advancing democracy in Israel, the New Israel Fund strongly believes that our job is to work within Israel to ensure democratic accountability.

With a free press, involved citizenry, a strong and independent judiciary, and a track record of officially constituted commissions and committees of inquiry, there are internal means to hold Israeli leaders accountable to the law, and we work to strengthen all those institutions. We therefore firmly oppose attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in foreign courts as an inherent principle of our dedication to Israeli democracy.

While it’s great to hear that NIF opposes lawfare, this statement means absolutely nothing unless the organization is willing to stop funding organizations that use lawfare tactics against Israel. The New Israel Fund practically is the lawfare movement — its grants basically keep the campaign alive. If NIF cut off financing to lawfare groups, it could cripple the movement.

So while these policy changes are an improvement, it looks like NIF still has a ways to go before it can be considered a respectable pro-Israel group.

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Goldberg Was Right About Israel’s Problems but Wrong About the JNF

Last week, Jeffrey Goldberg stirred up a minor hornet’s nest by writing in his Goldblog at the Atlantic that the proper reaction to the fire that devastated northern Israel was to stop contributing to the Jewish National Fund. His reasoning was that since the extent of the damage was due to the Israeli government’s decision not to adequately fund the fire service as well as its general incompetence, it would be wrong to donate funds to a charity that is best known for planting trees. As he wrote in a later post, since “There is no reasonable guarantee that the tree I donate will be adequately protected by the JNF or the State of Israel,” JNF won’t be getting any money from him.

Predictably, Goldberg has been torched by many readers who have wrongly interpreted his stance as one of turning his back on Israel. Equally predictably, Goldberg has been whining about his critics on his blog and telling them that “the Leon Uris phase of Jewish history is over,” which I suppose means we are no longer supposed to see all Israelis as carbon copies of Ari Ben Canaan, the superJew hero of Exodus. That’s fair enough, though I find it hard to believe in this era, in which Jewish Israel-bashing is a common phenomenon, that there was ever much doubt about that.

To further bolster his defense, Goldberg today quotes COMMENTARY contributor Daniel Gordis, who excoriated Israel’s current government (and its predecessors) in the Jerusalem Post for both its lack of planning for such a fire and the general lack of interest in thinking about the future that seems to characterize the Israeli bureaucracy as well as the political class. Gordis is, of course, dead right about all this. The 61-year-old Arab siege of the country has bred a crisis mentality in which non-military threats are often ignored. Its political system has failed to breed a sense of accountability, and the hangover from decades of socialist economics has created a corruption problem that has retarded efforts to improve governance on many levels.

But as much as foreign supporters of the Jewish state ought to share the frustration of Israelis about all this, Goldberg is still wrong about boycotting the JNF. The fund cannot guarantee that the trees Americans pay for won’t burn in a future fire, but that doesn’t mean that Israel’s forests shouldn’t be replanted. To punish the JNF because of governmental failures would be no different from a call to stop funding charities that served the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina because of the colossal failures of local government to protect their citizens as well as for the mistakes the Army Corps of Engineers made in estimating the damage that a storm might do to the city’s levees. Giving to the JNF is not, as Goldberg says, co-opting Diaspora Jews into supporting a cover-up of governmental failures. To the contrary, such donations will help fund the cleanup and recovery.

Goldberg is right when he says Israel should fully fund its fire-fighting capability, but the country’s mistakes on this issue will be rectified for the same reason that New Orleans’s flood prevention has been improved: it took a disaster and a bitter public backlash to force the government to prioritize this issue. This is the way with all democracies. Just as the defeats suffered during the Yom Kippur War and the Second Lebanon War prompted army reform in Israel, you can bet that Israel’s fire service will never be shorted again, or at least not anytime soon. This proves that for all its specific problems, Israeli democracy is not much different from the kind we practice here, where our leaders are just as guilty of fighting the last war rather than planning for the next one as they are in Jerusalem.

Last week, Jeffrey Goldberg stirred up a minor hornet’s nest by writing in his Goldblog at the Atlantic that the proper reaction to the fire that devastated northern Israel was to stop contributing to the Jewish National Fund. His reasoning was that since the extent of the damage was due to the Israeli government’s decision not to adequately fund the fire service as well as its general incompetence, it would be wrong to donate funds to a charity that is best known for planting trees. As he wrote in a later post, since “There is no reasonable guarantee that the tree I donate will be adequately protected by the JNF or the State of Israel,” JNF won’t be getting any money from him.

Predictably, Goldberg has been torched by many readers who have wrongly interpreted his stance as one of turning his back on Israel. Equally predictably, Goldberg has been whining about his critics on his blog and telling them that “the Leon Uris phase of Jewish history is over,” which I suppose means we are no longer supposed to see all Israelis as carbon copies of Ari Ben Canaan, the superJew hero of Exodus. That’s fair enough, though I find it hard to believe in this era, in which Jewish Israel-bashing is a common phenomenon, that there was ever much doubt about that.

To further bolster his defense, Goldberg today quotes COMMENTARY contributor Daniel Gordis, who excoriated Israel’s current government (and its predecessors) in the Jerusalem Post for both its lack of planning for such a fire and the general lack of interest in thinking about the future that seems to characterize the Israeli bureaucracy as well as the political class. Gordis is, of course, dead right about all this. The 61-year-old Arab siege of the country has bred a crisis mentality in which non-military threats are often ignored. Its political system has failed to breed a sense of accountability, and the hangover from decades of socialist economics has created a corruption problem that has retarded efforts to improve governance on many levels.

But as much as foreign supporters of the Jewish state ought to share the frustration of Israelis about all this, Goldberg is still wrong about boycotting the JNF. The fund cannot guarantee that the trees Americans pay for won’t burn in a future fire, but that doesn’t mean that Israel’s forests shouldn’t be replanted. To punish the JNF because of governmental failures would be no different from a call to stop funding charities that served the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina because of the colossal failures of local government to protect their citizens as well as for the mistakes the Army Corps of Engineers made in estimating the damage that a storm might do to the city’s levees. Giving to the JNF is not, as Goldberg says, co-opting Diaspora Jews into supporting a cover-up of governmental failures. To the contrary, such donations will help fund the cleanup and recovery.

Goldberg is right when he says Israel should fully fund its fire-fighting capability, but the country’s mistakes on this issue will be rectified for the same reason that New Orleans’s flood prevention has been improved: it took a disaster and a bitter public backlash to force the government to prioritize this issue. This is the way with all democracies. Just as the defeats suffered during the Yom Kippur War and the Second Lebanon War prompted army reform in Israel, you can bet that Israel’s fire service will never be shorted again, or at least not anytime soon. This proves that for all its specific problems, Israeli democracy is not much different from the kind we practice here, where our leaders are just as guilty of fighting the last war rather than planning for the next one as they are in Jerusalem.

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The Five No’s

Jeffrey Goldberg writes wistfully about the “peace process”:

I wish the Israelis had taken serious steps to reverse the settlement process; and I wish that Hamas would go away; and I wish that the Palestinian Authority didn’t argue that the Jews have no connection to the Western Wall (talk about unhelpful!).

There is not much one can do about Goldberg’s latter two wishes. Hamas is not going to go away (even though the Palestinian Authority promised to dismantle it as part of Phase I of the Roadmap); Hamas controls half the putative Palestinian state – and the Palestinians elected it to control their legislature. Elections that might reverse that are not going to happen any time soon, if ever.

Nor is it possible to do anything about Goldberg’s third wish. The PA’s argument that Jews have no connection to the Western Wall is not a new one; it is the argument Yasir Arafat made directly to Bill Clinton in the Oval Office on January 2, 2001, while rejecting the Clinton Parameters. Ten years of unhelpful! The PA’s Ministry of Information “study” posted on its website this week announces that “no Muslim or Arab or Palestinian had the right to give up one stone” of the Wall. So this too is not going to change any time soon, if ever.

But at least Goldberg’s first wish came true: while Hamas was consolidating its power and the PA was asserting that there was no Jewish connection to the Western Wall, Israel took five serious steps to reverse the settlement process:

  1. At Camp David in July 2000, Israel offered the PA a state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, which would have required the dismantlement of all settlements other than those adjacent to Jerusalem and/or necessary for defensible borders.
  2. In December 2000, Israel accepted the Clinton Parameters, which would have required the dismantlement of even more settlements.
  3. In 2005, Israel dismantled all 21 settlements in Gaza, giving the Palestinians the opportunity to “live side by side in peace and security”™ with Israel.
  4. In 2008, Israel made another offer of a state to the PA on all the West Bank (after land swaps) and Gaza, demonstrating again that it would dismantle settlements for peace.
  5. In 2009, Israel declared a 10-month moratorium on West Bank settlement-building to meet the Palestinian precondition to negotiations for still another offer of a state.

Five serious steps, five Palestinian rejections.

I would re-phrase Goldberg’s first wish as “I wish the PA had responded to Israel’s five serious steps regarding settlements.” But the PA is not going to respond any time soon, if ever. The problem is not the settlements, or the problem would have been solved long ago. What part of five no’s do those arguing for a sixth step not understand?

Jeffrey Goldberg writes wistfully about the “peace process”:

I wish the Israelis had taken serious steps to reverse the settlement process; and I wish that Hamas would go away; and I wish that the Palestinian Authority didn’t argue that the Jews have no connection to the Western Wall (talk about unhelpful!).

There is not much one can do about Goldberg’s latter two wishes. Hamas is not going to go away (even though the Palestinian Authority promised to dismantle it as part of Phase I of the Roadmap); Hamas controls half the putative Palestinian state – and the Palestinians elected it to control their legislature. Elections that might reverse that are not going to happen any time soon, if ever.

Nor is it possible to do anything about Goldberg’s third wish. The PA’s argument that Jews have no connection to the Western Wall is not a new one; it is the argument Yasir Arafat made directly to Bill Clinton in the Oval Office on January 2, 2001, while rejecting the Clinton Parameters. Ten years of unhelpful! The PA’s Ministry of Information “study” posted on its website this week announces that “no Muslim or Arab or Palestinian had the right to give up one stone” of the Wall. So this too is not going to change any time soon, if ever.

But at least Goldberg’s first wish came true: while Hamas was consolidating its power and the PA was asserting that there was no Jewish connection to the Western Wall, Israel took five serious steps to reverse the settlement process:

  1. At Camp David in July 2000, Israel offered the PA a state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, which would have required the dismantlement of all settlements other than those adjacent to Jerusalem and/or necessary for defensible borders.
  2. In December 2000, Israel accepted the Clinton Parameters, which would have required the dismantlement of even more settlements.
  3. In 2005, Israel dismantled all 21 settlements in Gaza, giving the Palestinians the opportunity to “live side by side in peace and security”™ with Israel.
  4. In 2008, Israel made another offer of a state to the PA on all the West Bank (after land swaps) and Gaza, demonstrating again that it would dismantle settlements for peace.
  5. In 2009, Israel declared a 10-month moratorium on West Bank settlement-building to meet the Palestinian precondition to negotiations for still another offer of a state.

Five serious steps, five Palestinian rejections.

I would re-phrase Goldberg’s first wish as “I wish the PA had responded to Israel’s five serious steps regarding settlements.” But the PA is not going to respond any time soon, if ever. The problem is not the settlements, or the problem would have been solved long ago. What part of five no’s do those arguing for a sixth step not understand?

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An Emotionally Satisfying Peace Process

Jeffrey Goldberg writes that he is “agnostic” about whether the Palestinians must acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. He needs three hands to set forth his views:  (1) “on the one hand, it seems to be an unnecessary and provocative demand;” (2) but “on the other hand … it would be emotionally satisfying” if the Palestinians acknowledged Jewish ties to the Land; (3) but “on the other other hand, the success of a peace treaty will not hinge on … whether Palestinians acknowledge [a Jewish state] on paper” but on “more practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees.”

If adjectives were analysis, the issue would be clear: between (a) an “emotionally satisfying” paper acknowledgment and (b) “practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees,” one would presumably prefer the latter – at least until one reflected on the meaning of “safeguarded guarantees” (which apparently are “guaranteed guarantees” from that famously reliable guarantor, the international community).

The flurry of adjectives in Goldberg’s post obscures the issue, which is not emotional satisfaction for Israelis but a requirement that Palestinians explain why, exactly, the demand for recognition of a Jewish state is “provocative.”  Netanyahu articulated the issue last month while visiting Sderot (and returned to the subject of a Jewish state in extended remarks to the cabinet yesterday):

When the Palestinians refuse to say something so simple, the question is – why? You want to flood the State of Israel about refugees so that it will no longer have a Jewish majority? You want to tear off parts of the Galilee and the Negev into mini-states? In a peace agreement, there will be simplest symmetry: Israel recognizes the Palestinian state – and the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state. This is so simple.

Guaranteed guarantees may be emotionally satisfying to peace processors, but peace will not occur until the Palestinians and their Arab supporters are ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state within defensible borders.

Jeffrey Goldberg writes that he is “agnostic” about whether the Palestinians must acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. He needs three hands to set forth his views:  (1) “on the one hand, it seems to be an unnecessary and provocative demand;” (2) but “on the other hand … it would be emotionally satisfying” if the Palestinians acknowledged Jewish ties to the Land; (3) but “on the other other hand, the success of a peace treaty will not hinge on … whether Palestinians acknowledge [a Jewish state] on paper” but on “more practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees.”

If adjectives were analysis, the issue would be clear: between (a) an “emotionally satisfying” paper acknowledgment and (b) “practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees,” one would presumably prefer the latter – at least until one reflected on the meaning of “safeguarded guarantees” (which apparently are “guaranteed guarantees” from that famously reliable guarantor, the international community).

The flurry of adjectives in Goldberg’s post obscures the issue, which is not emotional satisfaction for Israelis but a requirement that Palestinians explain why, exactly, the demand for recognition of a Jewish state is “provocative.”  Netanyahu articulated the issue last month while visiting Sderot (and returned to the subject of a Jewish state in extended remarks to the cabinet yesterday):

When the Palestinians refuse to say something so simple, the question is – why? You want to flood the State of Israel about refugees so that it will no longer have a Jewish majority? You want to tear off parts of the Galilee and the Negev into mini-states? In a peace agreement, there will be simplest symmetry: Israel recognizes the Palestinian state – and the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state. This is so simple.

Guaranteed guarantees may be emotionally satisfying to peace processors, but peace will not occur until the Palestinians and their Arab supporters are ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state within defensible borders.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.’”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].’”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.’”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.’”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].’”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.’”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What does Hillary need with a VP slot on an Obama ticket? Hillaryland eyes 2016. By then maybe voters will have forgotten what a mediocre secretary of state she was.

What does a tsunami look like? “In a poll of 12 hotly contested races that could decide who controls the House in the 112th Congress, Republican challengers are beating freshman Democrats in 11 — and in the last one, the race is tied.”

What does less than two years of the Obama presidency do to his party? “Working-class whites are favoring Republicans in numbers that parallel the GOP tide of 1994 when the party grabbed control of the House after four decades. The increased GOP tilt by these voters, a major hurdle for Democrats struggling to keep control of Congress in next month’s elections, reflects a mix of two factors, an Associated Press-GfK poll suggests: unhappiness with the Democrats’ stewardship of an ailing economy that has hit this group particularly hard, and a persistent discomfort with President Barack Obama.”

What does it say about the mood of the country (and Rahm Emanuel’s chances) when even Chicagoans are disappointed in Obama? “Even in President Barack Obama’s hometown, they had hoped for more. … But nearly two years after Obama took office, while the president remains widely popular in the city, his image has slipped a bit as many people wonder where the promised change and jobs are, even if they believe such talk is probably a bit unfair.”

What does the civilian judicial system offer terrorists that military tribunals don’t? “Minutes before a major terrorism trial was about to begin, a federal judge barred prosecutors in Manhattan on Wednesday from using a key witness. The government had acknowledged it learned about the witness from the defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, while he was being interrogated and held in a secret overseas jail run by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

What does Liz Cheney have to say about this? “The Obama Administration has dedicated itself to providing al Qaeda terrorists the kind of due process rights normally reserved for American citizens. By insisting on trying Ahmed Ghailani in civilian court with full constitutional rights, instead of by military commission, President Obama and Attorney General Holder are jeopardizing the prosecution of a terrorist who killed 224 people at U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. If the American people needed any further proof that this Administration’s policy of treating terrorism like a law enforcement matter is irresponsible and reckless, they received it today.”

What does Jeffrey Goldberg feel obliged to do? Explain to the Beagle Blogger what was wrong with Rick Sanchez’s anti-Semitic rant. A better question is what is the Atlantic doing with a writer who flaunts his indifference to anti-Semitism. (“It’s all about the clicks!” a colleague tells me. Yeah, but still.)

What does Hillary need with a VP slot on an Obama ticket? Hillaryland eyes 2016. By then maybe voters will have forgotten what a mediocre secretary of state she was.

What does a tsunami look like? “In a poll of 12 hotly contested races that could decide who controls the House in the 112th Congress, Republican challengers are beating freshman Democrats in 11 — and in the last one, the race is tied.”

What does less than two years of the Obama presidency do to his party? “Working-class whites are favoring Republicans in numbers that parallel the GOP tide of 1994 when the party grabbed control of the House after four decades. The increased GOP tilt by these voters, a major hurdle for Democrats struggling to keep control of Congress in next month’s elections, reflects a mix of two factors, an Associated Press-GfK poll suggests: unhappiness with the Democrats’ stewardship of an ailing economy that has hit this group particularly hard, and a persistent discomfort with President Barack Obama.”

What does it say about the mood of the country (and Rahm Emanuel’s chances) when even Chicagoans are disappointed in Obama? “Even in President Barack Obama’s hometown, they had hoped for more. … But nearly two years after Obama took office, while the president remains widely popular in the city, his image has slipped a bit as many people wonder where the promised change and jobs are, even if they believe such talk is probably a bit unfair.”

What does the civilian judicial system offer terrorists that military tribunals don’t? “Minutes before a major terrorism trial was about to begin, a federal judge barred prosecutors in Manhattan on Wednesday from using a key witness. The government had acknowledged it learned about the witness from the defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, while he was being interrogated and held in a secret overseas jail run by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

What does Liz Cheney have to say about this? “The Obama Administration has dedicated itself to providing al Qaeda terrorists the kind of due process rights normally reserved for American citizens. By insisting on trying Ahmed Ghailani in civilian court with full constitutional rights, instead of by military commission, President Obama and Attorney General Holder are jeopardizing the prosecution of a terrorist who killed 224 people at U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. If the American people needed any further proof that this Administration’s policy of treating terrorism like a law enforcement matter is irresponsible and reckless, they received it today.”

What does Jeffrey Goldberg feel obliged to do? Explain to the Beagle Blogger what was wrong with Rick Sanchez’s anti-Semitic rant. A better question is what is the Atlantic doing with a writer who flaunts his indifference to anti-Semitism. (“It’s all about the clicks!” a colleague tells me. Yeah, but still.)

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An Idea for Bibi: Never Mind

Jeffrey Goldberg has revised his position not only on Soros Street but also on settlements. On September 27, in “An Idea for Bibi,” he offered a “modest suggestion” for Benjamin Netanyahu:

Why not risk your governing coalition and impose a total freeze on settlement growth outside of the greater Jerusalem area? This way, you’ll show the world, and the Palestinians — who are governed, on the West Bank, at least, by a group of true moderates, who have done a great deal for your security over the past year – that you are serious about grappling with the challenges before you. …

It was not a very good suggestion: (1) Netanyahu’s center-right coalition is the only one with sufficient credibility to persuade a skeptical Israeli public to accept a peace agreement, assuming there is ever a peace agreement; (2) the prospects for such an agreement do not likely depend on Bibi showing he is “serious about grappling with the challenges” — not after he agreed to new negotiations without preconditions, publicly endorsed a two-state solution as demanded by Obama, implemented an unprecedented ten-month moratorium, and received nothing in return from Arab states or the PA; and (3) the “true moderates” have yet to make any concessions of their own, continually telling their public that they will make none about borders or the right of return.

Goldberg’s post resulted in dissent from Robert Satloff, who argued that while there might come a time for Bibi to break his coalition to approve a “real, lasting, and secure” peace agreement (whatever that means), it is “probably not wise to do it to satisfy a shortsighted fixation by the Obama administration to be the first in history to have made the pursuit of peace contingent on a settlement freeze”:

The Palestinians’ Woody Allen argument that they should be compensated just for showing up for negotiations that are designed, in the end, to provide them with major territorial concessions, the end of Israeli occupation and the creation of an independent state is, on the face of it, more than a bit odd.

In a post this afternoon, Goldberg effectively withdrew his modest suggestion:

On certain days of the week, and in certain moods, I used to think that the U.S. could pressure Israel out of the settlements. … But it doesn’t work. Israel wants the settlements to be a subject of negotiation with the Palestinians, along with everything else — and not the subject of a preemptive concession – and it seems that it is during negotiations (as President Clinton showed during Camp David) that the U.S. could best make the case against settlements, just as it is during negotiations that the U.S. could move the Palestinians away from their position on the so-called right-of-return.

In other words, what Netanyahu has been arguing every day of the week, in every mood, for a year and a half — that all issues need to be negotiated without preconditions, and without demanding concessions from only one side, particularly prior to negotiations — has been right.

Jeffrey Goldberg has revised his position not only on Soros Street but also on settlements. On September 27, in “An Idea for Bibi,” he offered a “modest suggestion” for Benjamin Netanyahu:

Why not risk your governing coalition and impose a total freeze on settlement growth outside of the greater Jerusalem area? This way, you’ll show the world, and the Palestinians — who are governed, on the West Bank, at least, by a group of true moderates, who have done a great deal for your security over the past year – that you are serious about grappling with the challenges before you. …

It was not a very good suggestion: (1) Netanyahu’s center-right coalition is the only one with sufficient credibility to persuade a skeptical Israeli public to accept a peace agreement, assuming there is ever a peace agreement; (2) the prospects for such an agreement do not likely depend on Bibi showing he is “serious about grappling with the challenges” — not after he agreed to new negotiations without preconditions, publicly endorsed a two-state solution as demanded by Obama, implemented an unprecedented ten-month moratorium, and received nothing in return from Arab states or the PA; and (3) the “true moderates” have yet to make any concessions of their own, continually telling their public that they will make none about borders or the right of return.

Goldberg’s post resulted in dissent from Robert Satloff, who argued that while there might come a time for Bibi to break his coalition to approve a “real, lasting, and secure” peace agreement (whatever that means), it is “probably not wise to do it to satisfy a shortsighted fixation by the Obama administration to be the first in history to have made the pursuit of peace contingent on a settlement freeze”:

The Palestinians’ Woody Allen argument that they should be compensated just for showing up for negotiations that are designed, in the end, to provide them with major territorial concessions, the end of Israeli occupation and the creation of an independent state is, on the face of it, more than a bit odd.

In a post this afternoon, Goldberg effectively withdrew his modest suggestion:

On certain days of the week, and in certain moods, I used to think that the U.S. could pressure Israel out of the settlements. … But it doesn’t work. Israel wants the settlements to be a subject of negotiation with the Palestinians, along with everything else — and not the subject of a preemptive concession – and it seems that it is during negotiations (as President Clinton showed during Camp David) that the U.S. could best make the case against settlements, just as it is during negotiations that the U.S. could move the Palestinians away from their position on the so-called right-of-return.

In other words, what Netanyahu has been arguing every day of the week, in every mood, for a year and a half — that all issues need to be negotiated without preconditions, and without demanding concessions from only one side, particularly prior to negotiations — has been right.

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RE: Reaction to J Street

I and others criticized Ron Kampeas for asserting that Richard Goldstone, who was chaperoned around Capitol Hill by the J Streeters, was/is not regarded as “Uncle Evil” in Israel. He offers a strange apology/retraction:

I based my perception on Israeli coverage at the time of the attempt by South African Zionists to keep Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and from conversations I had with Israelis then. That burst of sympathy might well have receded and the aftereffects of the Goldstone report might prove more durable. My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.

Really?! What level of sympathy did Goldstone ever attain in Israel, and on whom does Kampeas rely for insights into Israeli public opinion? So then his own views on Goldstone are not representative of either American Jewry or Israeli public opinion. Good to know. He concludes with this: “My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.” I have no idea whom he is referring to. But it’s apparent that he’s rather lonely on the leftward limb he’s crawled out on.

Jeffrey Goldberg (who I’ve been rather tough on of late) has, unlike Kampeas, stopped donating his services to the Soros Street defense fund. He writes:

J Street should stop lying to reporters. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, is spinning madly these days, trying to convince his supporters that this scandal is the product of a right-wing conspiracy. It is not — the scandal flows from a series of decisions made by J Street to cover-up facts it deemed unpalatable. Let me put this another way: If it were discovered today that AIPAC, J Street’s nemesis, received more than $800,000 from a Hong Kong-based “business associate” — Ben-Ami’s words — of a prominent horse bettor, the people at AIPAC would be undergoing, by tomorrow, a journalistic colonoscopy like they’ve never experienced.

But then AIPAC does not have to rely on secret, foreign donors. AIPAC, after all, actually represents a large segment of pro-Israel Americans. And it also shares the views of the overwhelming majority of Israelis concerning Goldstone.

I and others criticized Ron Kampeas for asserting that Richard Goldstone, who was chaperoned around Capitol Hill by the J Streeters, was/is not regarded as “Uncle Evil” in Israel. He offers a strange apology/retraction:

I based my perception on Israeli coverage at the time of the attempt by South African Zionists to keep Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and from conversations I had with Israelis then. That burst of sympathy might well have receded and the aftereffects of the Goldstone report might prove more durable. My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.

Really?! What level of sympathy did Goldstone ever attain in Israel, and on whom does Kampeas rely for insights into Israeli public opinion? So then his own views on Goldstone are not representative of either American Jewry or Israeli public opinion. Good to know. He concludes with this: “My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.” I have no idea whom he is referring to. But it’s apparent that he’s rather lonely on the leftward limb he’s crawled out on.

Jeffrey Goldberg (who I’ve been rather tough on of late) has, unlike Kampeas, stopped donating his services to the Soros Street defense fund. He writes:

J Street should stop lying to reporters. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, is spinning madly these days, trying to convince his supporters that this scandal is the product of a right-wing conspiracy. It is not — the scandal flows from a series of decisions made by J Street to cover-up facts it deemed unpalatable. Let me put this another way: If it were discovered today that AIPAC, J Street’s nemesis, received more than $800,000 from a Hong Kong-based “business associate” — Ben-Ami’s words — of a prominent horse bettor, the people at AIPAC would be undergoing, by tomorrow, a journalistic colonoscopy like they’ve never experienced.

But then AIPAC does not have to rely on secret, foreign donors. AIPAC, after all, actually represents a large segment of pro-Israel Americans. And it also shares the views of the overwhelming majority of Israelis concerning Goldstone.

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